10 Beginner Tips to Take Your Photography to the Next Level

September 28

9 min. to read

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Improve your photography with the help of these photography tips for beginners.

Have you been hit by the photography bug? You can learn a lot through trial and error and by just taking your camera out and playing with it.

If you want to accelerate your learning, however, here’s a crash course with photography for tips for beginners. And don’t worry, you don’t need to have mastered your camera’s functions yet. Our tips keep the technical knowledge to a minimum.  


The Rule of Thirds

10 Beginner Tips to Take Your Photography to the Next Level Image1How you compose your photo -- what you frame and include in your shot -- is key to making the image unique and your own. Photos can look boring when the horizon line is straight through the middle of your shot.

For a bit of help, turn on the gridlines in your camera settings that divide your frame into thirds. Shift your view up or down so that the horizon is closer to a one-third line. The rule of thirds also applies to vertical lines -- placing the subject of your image to the left or right of center can magically bring photos to life.

Look for the Light

10 Beginner Tips to Take Your Photography to the Next Level Image2Golden hour, the precious period just after the sun rises and the glorious time just before it sets, is the ideal time for photography. When the sun is low on the horizon, it spotlights objects, is less harsh, and gives everything a nice warm glow. That’s the best time to shoot. A mundane backyard or landscape shot can look stunning with horizontal light streaming through it.

Add Light When Editing

If the light conditions weren’t ideal when you took your photo, editing in software like Luminar can help. The Golden Hour filter adds golden glow to your shots while the Polarizing filter cuts haze, deepens a blue sky, and gives more contrast to clouds. With Luminar, you can also easily tweak the amount of brightness by adjusting the Exposure filter.

Walk Closer

Consider not only the subject of your photo but what else is in the frame. Have too much distracting background or too much empty space? Walk closer to your subject and have them fill your frame or use a bigger aperture to make them stand out. It’s tempting to use the zoom, but it can add noise and grain to your shot.

Don’t Say Cheese

Photos of people posing with forced smiles and rigid postures rarely look good, whether it’s your kids in the backyard or the granny selling street food on your trip to Cambodia. Candid, natural-looking portraits are more interesting and more flattering.

Get your subjects to bend an arm or knee, look at each other or at an object, and ask questions to get them talking and relaxed. Take multiple shots when they’re not as focused on you, and then choose the best one. Don’t forget to ask for permission when taking photos of people when you travel.

Add Context for Portraits

10 Beginner Tips to Take Your Photography to the Next Level Image3Portraits are more interesting when you add something to give the context of the time, place, or person and create a storytelling composition. The photo of the hatmaker is much more interesting if a stack of his work is in the shot. Show the toy in your child’s hands that makes them have that big grin. Stand back and look for nearby objects or backgrounds,  which help your photo tell a story.

Get Down Low

10 Beginner Tips to Take Your Photography to the Next Level Image4With so many people taking photos with their always-at-hand phone, images are starting to look similar and similar often means boring. One way to make that picture of the Eiffel Tower or the beach look different is to take the shot from a different perspective. Compose your shot while sitting or lying low on the ground, for example, and you’ll be surprised at the difference.  

Show the Scale

10 Beginner Tips to Take Your Photography to the Next Level Image5Especially at popular tourist spots, it’s hard to get a serene photo empty of people. But this can be an asset. People can add interest and scale to your shot. Instead of zooming in on your intended subject -- with a waterfall or a mountain, for example, filling your frame -- zoom out or stand further back. This will let you add other elements that would help define scale.

For example, if you see a photo of Machu Picchu’s ancient temples and walls without any people wandering through, it is difficult to tell just how vast the site is. Similarly, you can’t tell how massive the sandcastle your daughter built is without having something with a known size -- a shovel and pail, the architect herself -- in the photo too.  

Let the AI Fix It

Photo editing is a skill you need to learn and practice to master. As a beginner, you might have a long way to get to get to that point, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have easy editing tools available to you.

In Luminar, turn on the Accent-AI filter. The computer will automatically analyze your image and make a dozen minor corrections, such as adjusting highlights and shadows, subtle modifications to colors and enhancing details. Plus, you can control how much or little of the effects you want applied.

Analyze Your Photos and Keep Learning

One of the most important photography tips for beginners is to get into the habit of analyzing your photos. Compare different compositions, filters, and light conditions, then determine what you like best and why.

When you’ve edited an image, particularly using a tool like Luminar’s Accent-AI filter, compare the before and after results. What’s changed? What do you like or not like? Does it prompt you to try to do something different when you capture images in the future or when you edit them afterwards? Ask friends to identify their favorites of your photos and get them to tell you why. You’ll notice new things to consider next time you pull out your camera and your photography will continuously improve.

Written by

Johanna Read

Writer, Travel photographer

Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer specializing in travel, food and responsible tourism. She writes freelance for USA Today, Fodor’s and Canadian Traveller.

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